Ike’s Final Battle: The Road to Little Rock and the Challenge of Equality is an outstanding book written by Kasey S. Pipes. It explains one of the most critical events in the history of the United States – the Little Rock fight, which has become a turning point in the struggle for racial equality and desegregation. The author focuses on the figure of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the role he played in this battle, and the way he has made towards it trying to reveal the President’s mindset. This paper aims at presenting what I have discovered while reading this book and contemporary works to better understand bias and how historians interpret facts.
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The connection between the legal language and its social implications
First of all, I have discovered that legal language has nothing to do with social developments1. The brightest example is desegregating Little Rock school. Think of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education court decision preaching equal access to school education, on one hand, and conservatism of Little Rock’s business leaders and their belief that racial equality is a threat to social and economic progress2, on the other. Legally, nine black students were admitted to the school. However, the process of desegregation was complicated because they were followed by military troops to guarantee their safety3. Moreover, they experienced harassment later in attending classes, but it was not covered in the media because the school was believed to be desegregated, even though not at the first attempt4.
Introducing the sit-in strategy
Another finding was becoming aware of the sit-in strategy employed to protest against an oppressor. It was one more tool for fostering the civil rights movement centering on the idea of direct but quiet confrontation with an oppressor. The heart of the strategy is as follows: If an individual is refused service in public places, it does not mean that he or she should leave5. The sit-ins worked because as the policemen were prohibited to treat silent protesters brutally, it somehow added to building racial tolerance and further desegregation of public places.
Kneel-ins as the extension of sit-ins
The same strategy introduced by a black student in a restaurant was later used for desegregating churches. However, in this case, it was referred to as kneel-ins. The wave of these silent protests aimed at making homogenous churches an issue of choice, not a consequence of necessity or bans6. Even though the church desegregation process was rarely characterized by violence due to the specificity of the issue and the primary argument that worship should be color-blind7, kneel-ins were popular.
Struggle for equality and racial caste system
The most important discovery that I have made is that the struggle for racial equality, in fact, was a battle for putting an end to the racial caste system established in 1896 by the Ferguson ruling8. Kneel-ins, sit-ins, employing troops for fostering the change as well as boycotts and civil rights marches were the tools used for achieving the greater goal9 – eradicating the implications of the racial caste system existence and using it as a justification for discrimination, economic and class inequality, and differentiation10.
In conclusion, I want to say that reading a book and some contemporary academic works made me realize that history is a subjective science. Of course, there are facts, but including them into research and objectively highlighting them is the choice of an author. Searching for something new and earth-shattering details and interpretations of facts can lead a historian in a wrong direction because history is not archeology, it is the art of telling the truth11.
Anderson, Karen. Little Rock. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.
“From Canterbury to Little Rock: The struggle for educational equality for African Americans.” Magazine of History 15, no. 2 (2001): 37-56.
Haynes, Stephen R. The Last Segregated Hour: The Memphis Kneel-Ins and the Campaign for Southern Church Desegregation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Landsberg, Brian K. “Enforcing Desegregation: A Case Study of Federal District Court Power and Social Change in Macon County Alabama.” Law & Society Review 48, no. 4 (2014): 867-891.
Mocombe, Paul C., Tomlin, Carol, and Wright, Cecile. “A Racial Caste in Class: Race and Class Distinctions Within Black Communities in the United States and United Kingdom.” Race, Gender & Class 21, no. 3/4 (2014): 119.
Pipes, Kasey S. Ike’s Final Battle: The Road to Little Rock and the Challenge of Equality. Los Angeles: World Ahead Media, 2007.
- Karen Anderson, Little Rock. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 9.
- Ibid., 17.
- Kasey S. Pipes, Ike’s Final Battle: The Road to Little Rock and the Challenge of Equality. (Los Angeles: World Ahead Media, 2007), 248.
- “From Canterbury to Little Rock: The struggle for educational equality for African Americans,” Magazine of History 15, no. 2 (2001): 49.
- Pipes, 268.
- Stephen R. Haynes, The Last Segregated Hour: The Memphis Kneel-Ins and the Campaign for Southern Church Desegregation. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 8.
- Ibid., 21.
- Pipes, 128.
- Brian K. Landsberg, “Enforcing Desegregation: A Case Study of Federal District Court Power and Social Change in Macon County Alabama,” Law & Society Review 48, no. 4 (2014): 868.
- Paul C. Mocombe, Carol Tomlin and Cecile Wright, “A Racial Caste in Class: Race and Class Distinctions Within Black Communities in the United States and United Kingdom,” Race, Gender & Class 21, no. 3/4 (2014): 119.
- Pipes, xiii.